Keep a Coffee Notebook
33 Cups of CoffeeFood can be a powerful trigger for memory. Just ask Marcel Proust, whose reverie over tea and madeleines in Swann's Way became a literary touchstone. Or buttonhole the next friend (or passing stranger) you see and have them describe to you the last time the scent or taste of something brought them back to a very particular time in their lives. At one point or another, it's happened to all of us. This is nothing new. No self-respecting chef's kitchen should be without a recipe box or a notebook for the creations we've perfected over years of practice. If you're brewing (and/or roasting) your own coffee, it helps to know what worked best for specific beans and brewing methods. Even if your coffee consumption takes place entirely at cafes and coffee shops, tasting notes are a must to keep different coffee shops, bean varieties, and brews sorted. Wine and beer drinkers, as well as foodies more generally, have done this for years, and it's time for coffee drinkers to get with the program.
Moleskine Coffee JournalThere are a few commercially-available options available, including the 33 Cups of Coffee Tasting Notebook, Moleskine's Passions Coffee Journal (which includes a guide to coffee flavors and brewing) and The Coffee Journal by The Golden Age of Notebooks. My personal favorite method is a nondescript, but sturdy, notebook with a good binding. Whether you decide on something fancy or basic, you can make notes of the cafes you like, bean varieties, brew methods, and flavor. If you're brewing your own, you can track how grind size/settings, brew method, brew time, water weight and ground weight affect your final results. The advantage in the former instance is a means of tracking what you do, or don't, like. In the latter case, you're eliminating some of the guesswork from your brewing workflow, which will help you to get more consistent results.
The Coffee JournalOur memories are somewhat less reliable than we'd probably like, especially when it comes to remembering specifics of certain foods. The humorist Robert Benchley once took a group of friends out to a restaurant he'd found particularly memorable, only to remember partway through the meal that the reason the restaurant was so firmly ingrained in his mind was that it was terrible. Since the shortest pencil is better than the longest memory, taking notes on your coffee can help to get to the good stuff consistently. Further Reading: An excerpt from Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. Volume 1: Swann's Way: Within a Budding Grove